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Bereaved Families of Israeli Athletes Killed at 1972 Munich Olympics ‘Insulted’ by German Compensation Offer

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

The entrance to Amerikahaus in Munich is illuminated with a tribute to David Berger, one of eleven Israeli athletes murdered by Palestinian terrorists at the Olympic Games in the city in 1972. Photo: Amerikahaus, Munich

Relatives of the Israeli athletes killed during the Munich Olympic Games were unsatisfied with a compensation offer made by the German government 50 years after the massacre.

Germany’s federal government has agreed to make compensation payments to the bereaved families and to reassess the “grave consequences for the surviving dependents of the victims in immaterial and material terms,” a spokesperson for Germany’s interior ministry told German daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung on Wednesday.

The talks over “renewed financial services” come ahead of a memorial ceremony for the 50th anniversary of the terror attack, scheduled for Sept. 5. With a “complete and comprehensive review of the events of that time,” said the spokesman, Germany wanted to “express [its] special relationship with the State of Israel and create the starting point for a new culture of remembrance.”

Germany is now holding talks with representatives of the victims’ families, the spokesperson said, without providing any details about the amount. The government is understood to have offered 10 million euros to the families of the victims, SZ reported.

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Ankie Spitzer — the widow of Andre Spitzer, a fencing coach with the Israeli Olympic team, and the spokesperson of the bereaved families — called the offer “insulting” and unacceptable.

We are not going to be “sent away with a tip,” said Spitzer.

In September of 1972, eight members of the Palestinian terrorist group Black September took hostage nine athletes on the Israeli Olympic team, after killing two others, and demanded the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners detained in Israel. The assailants killed all of the Israeli hostages and a West German police officer during a failed rescue attempt.

Ilana Romano, the widow of Israeli weightlifter Yossef Romano, echoed Spitzer’s disapproval of the German offer, calling it “humiliating” and one that the victims’ survivors reject. Romano told Israeli broadcaster Kan that appropriate compensation payments must be determined according to international criteria, and not German local standards, as it was an attack of global scope.

“We have been mistreated all this time and now after 50 years, they decide they want to take responsibility,” said Romano.

Spitzer, who had planned to travel to Munich this week, said she will not set foot on German soil as long as the question of compensation remains unresolved. Spitzer also indicated that the victims’ families will likely boycott the main commemoration ceremony in Munich on Sept. 5.

“As the situation looks now, the families will not come,” she said.

Relatives of the bereaved families have received payments in the past, but they were smaller amounts and classified by the German side as humanitarian aid, in order to avoid an admission of guilt.

German security authorities have been accused of ignoring warnings of an attack during the Olympic Games, while the police response was deemed seriously flawed. In the aftermath, Germany also refused to provide full access to files of the terror attack.

The German government has reassessed the Olympic Games attack and its consequences in recent weeks, and views the coming commemoration event as “an occasion for a clear political classification of the events of 1972,” the interior ministry said. This also involves the appointment of a commission of German and Israeli historians “to comprehensively review the events.”

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